A push to rename Confederate Avenue and two similarly named thoroughfares on Atlanta’s southeast side inched forward Tuesday at City Hall.
In a largely procedural move, an Atlanta City Council committee voted to hold a public hearing and a "listening session" in September on changing the names. That's likely to continue a fierce debate over how history is interpreted and presented, a question that has raged, not only in Atlanta but across the South, as cities and states decide how the Confederacy should be memorialized on public land.
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The utilities committee is in charge of street name changes. Over the past year, residents of Grant Park and those who live along East Confederate Avenue and Confederate Court in Ormewood Park have collected enough petition signatures to have the streets renamed. They’ve tried off and on for years to change the name but their efforts took on renewed urgency after a white supremacists’s rally in Charlottesville, VA, last August left one woman dead.
City ordinance requires 75 percent of residents or property owners on a street to sign off on a name change. Tuesday’s decision by the utilities committee to move forward with public hearings now that those signatures are in place makes it more possible that those long-held and contentious streets names will be changed before the end of the year.
Possible replacement names, which will likely be chosen by residents of the affected neighborhoods, include Considerate Avenue, United Avenue and Soldier Avenue.
Changing the names was a recommendation of an 11-member advisory set up last fall by then-Mayor Kasim Reed and the City Council. Before it dissolved in November, the Advisory Committee on City of Atlanta Street Names and Monuments Associated with the Confederacy suggested several actions the city should take to remove or address Confederate iconography. Immediately renaming the "Confederate" streets was among the proposals.
During Tuesday's utilities meeting, Sheffield Hale, President and CEO of the Atlanta History Center and co-chair of the advisory committee, offered to help the council in interpreting and implementing the recommendations. The neither the council nor Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms administration acted on the report for months until an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article detailed the failure to deal with the findings.
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“We have an opportunity to address the monuments and street names in a holistic way,” Hale said as he left the meeting. “We did a lot of work and it still stands.”
Council President Felicia Moore appointed a three-member subcommittee last month to come up with an action plan on the recommendations. Moore said after Tuesday’s meeting that the new subcommittee had asked for a meeting with Bottoms to discuss implementation. Council members Carla Smith, Natalyn Archibong and Michael Julian Bond are on the new committee. Moore did not know when they would meet with Bottoms.
“I know something is going to happen now that we’ve gotten the wheels turning again on the issue,” Moore said.
A public “listening session” with Smith is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m., and an official public hearing with the utilities commission will be held on Sept. 25 at 9:30 a.m. Both will be held at City Hall.